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The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a $4 million jury verdict awarded to the parents of an Air Force cadet from Miami-Dade who died in a plane crash while training five years ago. Last year, a jury in U.S. District Court in Miami found British aircraft manufacturer Slingsby Aviation liable for the crash that resulted in the June 1997 death of 20-year-old Pace Weber. Weber and his instructor, Capt. Glen A. Comeaux, 31, of Yorktown, Va., were killed when they lost control of their T-3A Firefly while training in Colorado and it plunged to the ground. Weber’s parents, Hank and Teri, filed the wrongful-death lawsuit in 1997 after the fatal crash. At trial last year before U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro-Benages, the Webers argued the crash was the direct result of poor design and product defect. Slingsby denied the plane had any product defects and argued the crash was the result of pilot error. The Weber crash was one of three fatal T-3A Firefly crashes, in which six people — three cadets and three instructors — died. The Air Force first started using the Firefly in 1995. But in October 1999, after the three crashes, it permanently grounded its fleet of 110 T-3As, which the Air Force acquired for $40 million. Slingsby appealed the Miami jury verdict on a variety of grounds. It contended that material about the other two crashes should not have been admitted into evidence. It also argued that the verdict should be reduced because it was excessively high. But in a three-page opinion, the three-judge panel dismissed Slingsby’s appeal, holding that there was “no abuse of discretion in the court’s evidentiary rulings or in its failure to grant a remittitur.” Presiding were Judge Gerald B. Tjoflat, Judge Phyllis A. Kravitch, and Judge David D. Down Jr. from the Northern District of Ohio, who was sitting by designation. Oral argument was heard in April. “I know it sounds like a clich�, but for the parents this case was never about the money,” said Andrew Haggard, a partner at Haggard Parks Haggard & Bologna in Coral Gables. Fla. “This was about demonstrating the T-3A is an unsafe aircraft and was responsible for their son’s death.” Haggard represented the Webers along with his law partners Robert Parks and Jeannette Lewis Bologna. At oral argument, the Webers were represented by Dinah S. Stein of Hicks, Anderson & Kneale in Miami. Slingsby, which is insured by Lloyd’s of London, was represented by John M. Murray of Murray, Marin & Herman in Miami and Tampa, Fla. Murray could not be reached for comment. One other family has brought a claim against Slingsby in another of the Air Force crashes. The parents of Air Force Cadet Dennis Rando of Massachusetts, who died in a crash in September 1996, also filed suit in Miami. But Slingsby settled in a confidential pretrial settlement with the Randos, who also were represented by Haggard Parks. Haggard said that the facts in the Rando and Weber crashes were largely similar but that Slingsby refused to settle with the Webers.

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